|The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter VIII: ”Of the Mean Estimation of Oneself in the Eyes of God” (third entry)
Kempis closes this chapter with the three marks of a disciple of Christ: thankfulness, humility, and devotion. Why are these dispositions so important? Because Jesus is “our salvation, our virtue, and our strength.” These gifts inspire us to: thankfulness for the goodness of God toward us, His fallen creatures; humility because on our own without them we would be lost and could do nothing; devotion due to God for who He is and for what He has done for us.
|Today’s Gospel Reading: Jn 21:15-19
We hear proclaimed this day some of the final words recorded of Jesus before ascending to the Father. It provides us the scene in which Jesus invites Peter to affirm his love for his Master three times in front of a charcoal fire just as he denied knowing the Lord three times in front of a different charcoal fire just a short time earlier (see Jn 18:15-18,25-27). John then tells of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s death many years hence. His last words to Peter are recorded above.
Jesus last words to Peter may well have prompted the latter to be reminded of the same words of Jesus in this interchange they had at the Last Supper:
Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered [him], “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” (Jn 13:36-38)
If it did not come flooding back at that moment, it surely would at Pentecost. Peter was not to follow Jesus to the cross on Good Friday due to cowardice. But because of the salvation Jesus wrought, and the virtue and strength He provided, tradition tells us that Peter did “follow later” the road to crucifixion and glory.
Jesus uses “Follow me!” several times throughout the Gospels to call specific apostles He has chosen, but of course it applies to all of us. Remember this other famous passage:
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23)
So we note a common them that not only applies to Peter, but also to all disciples of Christ. Following Jesus, by its nature, entails suffering and death. On our own this is a tragic and meaningless circumstance. But, because Christ led the way, we now have the strength He imparts to those of us who ask for it, to follow in His footsteps to the glory of God and eternal beatitude,.
[Jesus said,] “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:24)
(By the way, an interesting exposition of this scene, likely different from what you’ve heard before, can be found on The Sacred Page. I encourage you to check it out.)